Apartments, condos see problems tied to pot legalization
As Colorado details how pot smokers can legally light up, homeowner associations and apartment complexes are starting to feel the effects.
While Amendment 64 permits recreational use of marijuana by adults, as well as the indoor cultivation of up to six plants, some property management companies are already threatening fines for those who use or grow in their units.
Many newer properties have already banned smoking entirely.
Alta Aspen Grove, Littleton's newest complex, is 100 percent smoke-free. Tenants sign an addendum to their lease that allows the company to fine them $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and evict them on the third. The building is LEED Silver certified.
“It attracts kind of a different demographic,” said Carissa DeKeyser, assistant community manager. “When they find out we're 100 percent smoke-free, they'll either walk right out the door or they'll be even more interested.”
Jill Kearney rents a condo in a Denver high-rise and said just the thought of her neighbors lighting up has her looking for alternatives.
“I really don’t care what other people want to do, but the thought of having someone living next door growing and smoking marijuana really encourages me to start looking for a house to rent,” said Kearney. “I’m probably not going to have as nice of a place, but if this is the way it’s going to go down, I don’t feel I have a choice.”
But problems with marijuana use in properties where tenants share a common wall are more than just smoke, according to Molly Foley-Healy, special counsel for Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis and Payne who specializes in property law.
“Problems include the distinctive smell of not just pot when it’s smoked, but also when it’s growing,” said Foley-Healy, adding that other concerns include mold, excessive use of water for hydroponics, light pollution from grow lights as well as electrical hazards from overloaded wall outlets. And just like many municipalities, property managers are torn between two governing jurisdictions.
“The real sticky wicket comes when you look at most contracts signed by the tenant,” explained Foley-Healey. “Most communities, when you buy or rent, will have you sign a document agreeing to the association’s governing documents and most require tenants and residents to abide by all laws — meaning federal, state and local laws.”
While pot may be legal under state law, the fact is, it’s still illegal under federal law.
According to Foley-Healing, the other looming question for property managers is the issue of enforcement.
She said it’s a fine line, and she encourages her clients to defer matters to local authorities.
“Just like when tenants have problems with loud music or unleashed dogs, there are usually municipal codes that already exist to deal with these kinds of things,” she said. “If it becomes a problem, I would highly encourage any of our clients and residents to report the matter to local authorities and let them handle it.”